WalletHub Report: Does Banking Locally Save You Money?

by Sonia Garrison

WH 2014 Report Banking Locally Most people expect small community banks to operate a bit differently than big national banks. There’s certainly rhyme to that reason, but we also tend to assume those mega-banks offer standardized national rates, regardless of where their customers happen to live. That part, interestingly enough, isn't quite true.

WalletHub analyzed savings accounts from the 10 largest U.S. banks in order to determine which institutions price their products geographically as well as how local competition among national banks impacts consumer rates. We found that 3 out of 10 banks offer different rates to consumers based on where they live, whether through disproportionately priced promotions or standard operating procedure. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that interest rates vary by as much as 550% from city to city depending on whichever 2-4 major banks happen to have a significant presence in given area.

The country’s 10 largest banks control more than 70% of the deposit account market, which means most people have an account with one of these institutions. Consumers are also naturally inclined to do business with a bank whose name they see all around town, so they tend to limit their perceived options and ultimately wind up with an above-average APY only if one of the very best mega-banks operates locally.

Such an approach thus seems rather constrictive in this, the age of efficient product comparison, digitized banking and unprecedented economic pressures. So take a look at how the banking industry’s major players are setting the market in your town, and make sure to consider possibilities beyond your zip code the next time you shop for a new account. After all, local branch locations are no longer prerequisite, since a deposited check is only a camera click away these days.

Main Findings

Interest Rate Differences by City

  • The 10 largest banks offer an average APY for savings accounts of 0.036%.
  • The interest rates offered by mega-banks operating locally in New Orleans, Houston, Boston, and Burlington, VT are 31%- 54% higher than the national average.
  • The lowest average APYs can be found in Indianapolis, Detroit, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Little Rock, AK. The interest rates offered by mega-banks operating locally in those cities are 72% lower than the national average and 82% lower than in New Orleans.
  • Citibank is the only major bank that consistently varies its standard savings account interest rates by region. Citibank customers in Boston, Philadelphia, and Wilmington, DE earn interest on balances of $10,000 or more at twice the rate of customers in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, DC.
  • Although Capital One offers uniform rates throughout the U.S., the company also offers promotional interest rates that vary by region. Promo rates in the New York City area are 113% higher than those in New Orleans.
  • Capital One promotional rates on savings accounts are up to 16 times higher than the standard rates that apply after twelve month promotional rates expire.
  • Wells Fargo offers higher three-month promotional rates to customers who sign up in a Los Angeles or Jacksonville, FL branch. These rates are up to 18 times higher than promotional rates offered in other cities.
  • The remaining seven mega-banks offer consistent savings rates across the United States.
  • We also reviewed interest rates on checking accounts from each of the mega-banks and found no regional variation.

Cities with the highest and lowest savings account interest rates

 

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Mega Bank Savings Account APY by City

Rank Location Number of mega-banks with branches in city Avg. standard APY of mega banks in city Difference between Avg APY in City vs. Nationwide APY
1 New Orleans, LA 2 0.055% 53.85%
2 Boston, MA 3 0.053% 49.18%
3 Burlington, VT 1 0.050% 39.86%
4 Houston, TX 6 0.047% 30.54%
T - 5 Newark, NJ 7 0.041% 15.88%
T - 5 New York, NY 7 0.041% 15.88%
T -7 Wilmington, DE 5 0.040% 11.89%
T -7 Philadelphia, PA 5 0.040% 11.89%
T -7 Birmingham, AL 2 0.040% 11.89%
T - 10 Baltimore, MD 8 0.039% 8.39%
T - 10 Washington , DC 8 0.039% 8.39%
12 Bridgeport, CT 5 0.036% 0.70%
13 Columbia, SC 4 0.035% -2.10%
T -14 Portland, ME 2 0.030% -16.08%
T -14 Manchester, NH 2 0.030% -16.08%
T -14 Providence, RI 2 0.030% -16.08%
T -14 Anchorage, AK 1 0.030% -16.08%
T -14 Jackson, MS 1 0.030% -16.08%
T - 19 Los Angeles, CA 5 0.028% -21.68%
T - 19 Las Vegas, NV 5 0.028% -21.68%
21 Charlotte, NC 4 0.025% -30.07%
22 Jacksonville, FL 7 0.024% -32.07%
23 Charleston, WV 3 0.023% -34.73%
T - 24 Atlanta, GA 5 0.022% -38.46%
T - 24 Virginia Beach, VA 5 0.022% -38.46%
T - 26 Louisville, KY 4 0.020% -44.06%
T - 26 Chicago, IL 6 0.020% -44.06%
T - 26 Wichita, KS 2 0.020% -44.06%
T - 26 Minneapolis, MN 2 0.020% -44.06%
T - 26 Billings, MT 2 0.020% -44.06%
T - 26 Omaha, NE 2 0.020% -44.06%
T - 26 Fargo, ND 2 0.020% -44.06%
T - 26 Sioux Falls, SD 2 0.020% -44.06%
T - 26 Cheyenne, WY 2 0.020% -44.06%
T - 35 Denver, CO 3 0.017% -53.38%
T - 35 Boise, ID 3 0.017% -53.38%
T - 35 Des Moines, IA 3 0.017% -53.38%
T - 35 Albuquerque, NM 3 0.017% -53.38%
T - 35 Memphis, TN 3 0.017% -53.38%
T - 35 Salt Lake City, UT 3 0.017% -53.38%
T - 41 Phoenix, AZ 4 0.015% -58.04%
T - 41 Columbus, OH 4 0.015% -58.04%
T - 41 Portland, OR 4 0.015% -58.04%
T - 41 Seattle, WA 4 0.015% -58.04%
T - 41 Milwaukee, WI 4 0.015% -58.04%
T - 46 Little Rock, AR 2 0.010% -72.03%
T - 46 Indianapolis, IN 3 0.010% -72.03%
T - 46 Detroit, MI 3 0.010% -72.03%
T - 46 Kansas City, MO 2 0.010% -72.03%
T - 46 Oklahoma City, OK 2 0.010% -72.03%
Nationwide Average 3.58 0.036%
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Standard Savings Account APY by Mega Bank

Bank Name Location Standard APY for $1,000 balance Standard APY for $10,000 balance
CitiBank Los Angeles, California 0.05% 0.08%
CitiBank Bridgeport, Connecticut 0.05% 0.08%
CitiBank Wilmington, Delaware 0.05% 0.10%
CitiBank Chicago, Illinois 0.05% 0.05%
CitiBank Baltimore, Maryland 0.05% 0.05%
CitiBank Boston, Massachusetts 0.05% 0.10%
CitiBank Las Vegas, Nevada 0.05% 0.08%
CitiBank Newark, New Jersey 0.05% 0.08%
CitiBank New York, New York 0.05% 0.08%
CitiBank Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 0.05% 0.10%
CitiBank Houston, Texas 0.05% 0.08%
CitiBank Washington DC 0.05% 0.05%
Capital One All 8 states plus District of Columbia 0.05% 0.10%
Wells Fargo All 39 states plus District of Columbia 0.03% 0.03%
US Bank All 25 states 0.01% 0.01%
Bank of America All 31 states plus District of Columbia 0.01% 0.01%
BB&T All 12 states plus District of Columbia 0.05% 0.05%
SunTrust All 11 states plus District of Columbia 0.01% 0.01%
PNC All 15 states plus District of Columbia 0.01% 0.01%
TD Bank All 15 states plus District of Columbia 0.05% 0.05%
JP Morgan Chase All 23 states 0.01% 0.01%
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Promotional Savings Account APY by Mega Bank

Bank Name Location Standard APY for $1000 balance Standard APY for $10,000 balance Promotional APY for $1000 balance Promotional APY for $10,000 balance Promotion time frame
Capital One Washington, DC 0.05% 0.10% 0.75% 0.75% First 12 months
Capital One Houston, Texas 0.05% 0.10% 0.75% 0.75% First 12 months
Capital One Baltimore, Maryland 0.05% 0.10% 0.75% 0.75% First 12 months
Capital One New York, New York 0.05% 0.10% 0.85% 0.85% First 12 months
Capital One Newark, New Jersey 0.05% 0.10% 0.85% 0.85% First 12 months
Capital One New Orleans, Louisiana 0.05% 0.10% 0.40% 0.40% First 12 months
Wells Fargo Jacksonville, Florida 0.03% 0.03% 0.15% 0.15% First 3 months
Wells Fargo Los Angeles, California 0.03% 0.03% 0.25%- 1.50% 0.25%- 1.50% First 3 months
Wells Fargo All Other Wells Fargo Locations 0.030% 0.030% 0.080% 0.080% First 3 months
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Methodology

We collected savings and checking account interest rates from the 10 largest U.S. banks by deposit amount, as reported by the FDIC from the websites of each institution. We used the zip code function on the banks’ sites to collect rate information for the largest city in each state for account balances of $1,000 and $10,000. Where banks operated in a state, but did not have branches in the largest city within that state, rate information was collected from another city within that state.
In addition, we called and spoke with a staff member of a bank branch for 93 branches in 31 cities to confirm that the interest rates charged in the branches were in fact, the same as those provided on the website. For those branches that were contacted, all interest rates provided by branch employees matched those that were published for the corresponding zip code on the banks’ websites, with the exception of a short-term bonus rate offered by two Wells Fargo branches in California and Florida which was not advertised on the web site. Rate information for the remaining cities was pulled directly from the websites of the banks.
The state of Hawaii is not represented on this report since none of the 10 banks we reviewed had branch locations in the state.

Author
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Sonia Garrison is Research Manager at Evolution Finance. Previously she worked as a Senior Researcher at the Center for Responsible Lending. Sonia has more than 20 years experience…
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